Grudge Match Round Two
by rick olivares pics by mark dimalanta/interaksyon
April 30, 2013
There will be a noticeable difference when Air Force takes the pitch tonight against Loyola.
They’ve got confidence. And that can be a dangerous thing as they’ve won two straight convincingly. Even some of their losses were in some way, a moral victory (e.g. the 2-0 loss to Global where they pushed the defending champions to the brink before conceding a pair of goals late in the game).
Pundits might claim that PAF’s two victims were teams on a skid and will be hard-pressed to do the same to one of the better clubs.
So it’s the new attitude and new look Air Force against same old foe, Loyola. The Sparks had the better team last year but got outplayed by the Airmen who won the battle of wills and psy-war.
Loyola is also on a two-game win streak after having that stopped by a draw with Global and a loss to Stallion.
What should Loyola do to win?
They should score early if not put in a couple of goals in the back of the net. If they can do that they will put Air Force on their heels.
The Sparks should make Air Force put the ball down on the ground and force them into short passing. While Loyola has the height at the back to deal with the longballs, they cannot take the chance. They have to cut those supply of balls to Ian Araneta and try to force the others to beat them. They also have to watch the dangerous Ansing Gustilo who can hurt you if you aren’t paying attention.
On offense, the quicker the passing, the better it is for Loyola. They are the best passing team in the UFL’s Division One. This is how they carve out opponents.
What should Air Force do to win?
If they can hold and not give up silly fouls and just play football they stand a chance. They do not have a bench so it is important for the starters of this team to hold together.
Their physical play used to be a weapon as they had the veteran players who could make plays. Not so with this younger team that needs a little more seasoning. Will their physical game cause problems for Loyola? That depends if players like James Younghusband choose to let it affect them.
PAF should try to contain Mark Hartmann and stop Loyola’s finely tuned passing game. Zonal marking should help them out in this task. If they can exploit the spaces in Loyola’s 4-2-3-1 formation (just as Kaya and Stallion did), they’ll have the Sparks more cautious in their attack. It is easier said than done, of course.
When Mark Hartmann scores, Loyola almost always wins. It is imperative they stop him. But then again, there’s also Phil Younghusband. Air Force should thank the stars that Freddy Gonzalez is unavailable or else that’s three dangerous scorers (you can even throw in Jeong Byeong Yeol into that mix) they have to worry about.
A couple of players will be missing this match because of the accumulation of yellow cards: Loyola midfielder David Cortina, and Air Force’s multi-position Vince Braga.
The Sparks have a deeper bench while Air Force will miss Braga’s physical presence not to mention nose for the game.
Here are the Top 10 scorers in this UFL season:
Phil Younghusband (Loyola) - 12
Mark Hartmann – (Loyola) 11
Rufo Sanchez – (Stallion) 11
Izzo Elhabib – (Global) 8
Emmanuel Mbata – (Pasargad) 7
Joo Young Lee – (Stallion) 6
Chieffy Caligdong – (Green Archers United) 5
Ian Araneta – (Air Force) 5
Jeffrey Christiaens – (Global) 4
Meliton Pelayo – (Army) 4
Patrick Reichelt – (Global) 4
Hyo Il Kim – (Stallion) 4
Additional reading: The UFL's top-rated defense and other stats